Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown
NFL on CBS

After being witness to some obscure calls by referees over the last few weeks, I felt it was time to start a new feature here at SCU to give our readers an opportunity to voice their opinion on officiating. Should there be a questionable call (or calls) against the Steelers, I will post clips here from the game in order to gauge the public perspective on what was (or wasn't) penalized.

My goal here is not to whine about calls. Obviously, we can't change them long after the fact! Instead, I'd like to open a discussion where fans can debate on and better educate themselves about the rules.

This week's choice for "You Make The Call" might make your head hurt: was a Ben Roethlisberger throw to Antonio Brown early in the third quarter rightfully called?

First, let's take a look at the play in real time.

There's a lot at play here. First, did Brown complete a catch?

Most of us are familiar with the requirements for a catch, but here's a quick review in layman's terms: both feet down, inbounds, with clear control of the ball. Of course, there's the "football move" portion that's always thrown around in conversation and is vague in nature. The only thing we can tell you for certain is that once the process of a catch is completed, the player (in this case AB) becomes a "runner", according to the NFL rule book:

A player has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps.

Let's watch the play in slow motion and you make the determination:

The final ruling on the field was an interception. I know that part frustrated me at first, and confused fans. I feel the officiating crew didn't do a good enough job explaining it for TV (obviously John Harbaugh understood what was going on). How could this be an interception?

The key point here is that the ball never touches the ground. In reviewing the play, if Brown doesn't complete the process of a catch, the ball is still live since it did not touch the ground.

But if the ball touches the ground, would it have been ruled an incomplete catch? CBS analyst Dan Fouts also questioned why a touchdown wasn't ruled, but he simply could not hear the referee's whistle over the crowd noise from the loose ball.

Here we see the official at the top of the screen immediately ruling Antonio down by contact. He is operating under the premise of a complete catch, with a knee down on the field.

Here is a clearer photo of the referee pointing he is down and blowing the whistle. (We cannot see any further signal by the officiating team as the camera pans to the right to follow Ravens safety Eric Weddle.)

So now my question to Steelers Nation is as follows: is it a catch or an interception?

We'd like to see your comments (and of course, justification) for your decision below! We will add our comments over the next few days too.





Sound Off! Let's hear what you have to say in our comments section

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  1. Steelerman24752 says:

    It seems to me like he was down, we have a catch, two feet down, move to shield from defender, and then the knee on the ground while still maintaining control. I would think knee on the ground from contact would end the play.

  2. Piratte fan 4 life says:

    as I understand the rules once AB’s knee was down which it was before the ball was ripped loose that should have been the end of the play and either ruled a catch or incomplete pass but still not sure how valid the INT call was even after having it explained

  3. Dana Atwood says:

    It is a catch. It’s as simple as that. The ball never moved while his knee hit the ground. Then once he rolled over the ball came loose. The first ref was correct in his call. Blew the whistle and then said down by contact. End of story!!

  4. Kingsteeler68 says:

    I was just as upset about the call as all Steeler Fans, but I realized that it was the right call based on the NFL rules, players have to hold onto the ball all the way to the ground, otherwise it’s an incomplete pass, hence the interception, the ball never touched the ground, the refs have been consistent with that call throughout the league, players have to hold onto the ball even after they hit the ground simple as that.

  5. Joe Kuzma says:

    A few of my opinions on the matter:

    There was a no-TD/catch call where AB trapped the ball against his hip/thigh last year (while also having his helmet ripped off in the process). This is very similar and seeing as the ball never touches the ground, is the ONLY semblance I can derive where they felt it wasn’t a “catch” and that the ball is “live”.

    I do take issue with the elements existing to make AB a “runner”, as he turns, takes several steps and attempts to defend himself from the opponent. That part makes me feel as though he completes the process of a catch and is then down by contact.

    In other words: this one is a gray area! Stay tuned… I hope the NFL has an official statement on it in their weekly series.

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